The Needles Batteries

England, United Kingdom

The Needles Batteries are two military batteries built above the Needles stacks to guard the West end of the Solent. The field of fire was from approximately West South West clockwise to Northeast and they were designed to defend against enemy ships.

The Old Battery was constructed between 1861 and 1863. It was equipped with six 7-inch Armstrong rifled breechloading guns. These were replaced by four 7-inch and two 9-inch rifled muzzle loaders in 1872, and six 9-inch rifled muzzle loaders in 1893. The 9 inch guns took a team of 9 men to load and fire. These guns fired projectiles weighing 116 kg. The 9-inch guns remained in place until 1903 when they were discarded by throwing them over the side of the cliff. These were later recovered and two are now on display at the Old Battery.

A deep ditch with a retractable bridge was dug into the chalk to protect the facility from ground attack from the island side. In 1885 a tunnel was dug towards the cliff face from the parade grounds. An elevator down to the beach was completed in 1887. Early searchlight experiments were conducted at the site between 1889 and 1892. The present observation post housing a searchlight was built in 1899. Just to the east of the Old Battery, at Hatherwood Point are the remains of Hatherwood Battery, built to defend the area alongside the Needles Battery.

A tunnel leads to a searchlight emplacement with good views towards the Needles lighthouse.

The Old and New Batteries were manned during the World Wars. German U-boats sank two ships off The Needles during World War I. This facility was also the site of early trials of anti-aircraft guns. In World War II, anti-aircraft guns defended the Isle of Wight against air attacks but repeated German air attacks necessitated improvements in the fortifications at the site. Troops trained for the D-Day landing on the neighbouring cliffs. After the war, the Ministry of Defence deactivated the batteries.

In the 1950s, the battery was used for testing the Blue Streak missile, as well as the Black Knight and Black Arrow satellite launch vehicles. Like the Old Battery, the New Battery has also been listed at Grade II. The surviving parts of the rocket testing facilities are a scheduled monument.

When the site came into the possession of the National Trust, it was decided to restore the Old Battery so that it could be opened to the general public. The National Trust Youth Group comprising local schoolchildren and teachers assisted in preparing the site for its official opening in 1982. The site is still managed by the National Trust and is open daily from mid-March to the end of October. It gives visitors an insight into how a Victorian battery would work and giving a glimpse into the life of a soldier based at the Battery during the Second World War. Along with a series of exhibition rooms and the tunnel there are a number of visitor facilities including a tearoom. The New Battery was opened to the public in 2004 and has a display on the history of the British rocket development between the 1950s and 1970s.

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England, United Kingdom
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Founded: 1861
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Stephen Thornhill (12 months ago)
We parked at the Tennyson Memorial car park then walked over following the signed paths to see the old and new battery. Interesting fortress and rocket launch test site. Very informative. Nice cafe and great views of the needles and out to sea
Rubicon C (14 months ago)
Breathtaking views and great place to experience what the English South Coast is about. Good for families, friends and couples. If you have to decide between this and the Needles boat trips down by the attractions, I would definitely recommend this.
doublej (14 months ago)
Wow. This place is top notch and the views are amazing. A must see over the needles attraction park for anyone. Brilliant cream tea and a lovely place to experience history. Very enjoyable. Look out for geocache!
Barry Plater (16 months ago)
This was our second visit in a week. On the first visit the wind was so strong we could hardly stand up, but on this second visit the conditions were perfect. It was a gentle uphill walk for about half a mile from the carpark to the old battery, with views for miles along the south coast. Staff at the old battery were very helpful: there were refreshments available and outside seating. Really enjoyed our visit.
Ben Rouse (2 years ago)
Worth a trip with the kids and free entry if you are a National Trust member.
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